So I’m going to start this post off by saying that no, I’ve never been to Dubai. It’s not that I don’t have any interest, but the opportunity has never come knocking at my door. However, I recently attended a travel event here in New York and had an interesting conversation with a fellow writer about how it’s quite possible to go beyond the glitz and the glamour often associated with the city.

Ever since watching Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Orange County” a few years back and hearing how much the ladies loved the shopping scene there, let’s just say that my curiosity wasn’t necessarily peaked. I love fashion as an art form but moving as much as I have in the last two years will make you think twice about collecting too many material possessions.

That aside, there are many aspects of The United Arab Emirates, and Dubai in particular, that fascinate me. If I do make it there, here’s how I’d likely spend my trip.

1) Gallery Hop

The Al-Quoz strip is quickly becoming the heart of the art world in Dubai, especially with the younger generation. The Lawrie Shabibi Gallery features contemporary art from the Middle East and other regions and the Ayyam Gallery, Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde and Flying House are a few others that I’m interested in seeing. This part of Dubai is far grittier than the typical Dubai glamour, which should be a refreshing change.

2) Haggle at the Souk

We all know I love a good haggle and I’m guessing Dubai has plenty of opportunity for me to put my bargaining skills to the test. I rarely buy anything besides a souvenir here or there but my main thrill comes from interacting with the locals and starting up conversations when appropriate. Dubai’s Gold Souk is a must for anyone remotely interested in diamonds of every size, shape and color.

3)  Drink tea at the Burj Al Arab 

This is considered the only seven star hotel in the world so I’m guessing that a tea is all I can realistically afford. The hotel, which ranks as the fourth tallest in the world, has an aquarium on either side of the elevators and seafood restaurant built underwater. Architecturally, the hotel is designed to look like the sail of a ship and is actually located on its own little island.

4) Search for Street Art

I read an article this past spring about how a creative group of street artists are adding color, both literally and figuratively, to the streets of streets of Al-Quoz, the same area where the local art scene thrives. Currently, the area is mainly comprised of factories and warehouses but like many neighborhoods before it, a revamp is on the horizon. I hope this initiative does come to life, as it would surely add a unique layer of intrigue to the city.

5) Indulge in a Champagne Brunch

This might not be the most cultural thing to do in Dubai, but nightlife and partying have become alluring aspects of the city. Despite being a Muslim state, there’s never any shortage of alcohol in Dubai. I’m also not really a night owl myself but living in New York has made me a brunch fanatic. For unlimited champagne, head to Spectrum on One (Fairmont) or Le Meridien’s (Yalumba) and for a great view, 360 Degrees does the trick.


 Image via Joi Ito‘s flickr stream.

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